The Four Characters of a Good Team

When adventure awaits, know who to bring and who to kick to the curb.

By Joshua A. Johnston. Posted 02/07/2014 12:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Issue 15: Long Live the JRPG

Anyone who said gaming isn’t a team sport has not yet lived. Whether it is romping through an online wasteland with 12-year old divas in a not-so-free-to-play MMO or toting through the jungles of a single player game with several sidekicks of dubious AI, gaming is always more fun when you’re not the only one staring down pure evilness. Sure, you can go it alone like Samus or Link, but why take your cue from a mentally unstable bounty hunter or reincarnated elf when you can buy into the glorious synergy of collaboration promoted by the world’s leading CEOs and caffeinated infomercial gurus?

Of course, teambuilding is as much science as it is picking spiky-haired Japanese protagonists, and when you have the option to do so, I recommend you pack these four folks along before you head off on your quest to find the Chosen, stop the spawns of the underworld, or otherwise cleave in twain hordes of green minions who all look exactly alike…


1. The Tank

Also known as: the Meat Shield, the Aggro Guy

The job: Tanks take a beating so everyone else doesn’t have to. Often oversized and sometimes underbrained, the Tank runs into battle with reckless abandon, taunting and screaming and doing just about everything possible to bring upon himself (or, in some cases, herself) as much physical torture as possible. Tanks can take it, though, because a tank has lots of big heavy armor, a big shield, and plenty of moral support from the rest of the party.

Optional but desirable qualities: I prefer if my tank can deal back some of the punishment, too. Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate the guy putting it on the line for the rest of us, but it’s nice if he can chip in a bit on the damage count when we’re fighting that Level 96 boss with 250,000,000 hit points. It’s not like he doesn’t benefit; it sure beats just sitting there and getting wailed on for three hours.

2. The Thief

Also known as: the Rogue, the Hacker

The job: While most monsters in the wild have the highly desirable quality of carrying money and even human armor on their person (who knew, right?) it’s sometimes nice to be able to pick that lock on the giant chest behind the Giant Dragon of Mount Evil, disarm all those bomb traps that keep showing up on my HUD, or hack all the good guy turrets that were hacked by the bad guys so they are hacked to shoot back on the bad guys.

Optional but desirable qualities: Thieves have a reputation for being a bit weak on the attack front. Thieves that can do that double damage backstab thing or throw a tack or giant bomb at the enemy is a nice extra. Being able to wield a bow or rifle for those pesky enemies up on random cliffs that the programmers won’t let us climb up to is a plus, too.

3. The White Mage

Also known as: the Healer, the Medic

The job: This should be obvious, right? Sprinkle green light everywhere and keep the rest of us from being dead. Oh, and if someone falls, send the cupid with the halo over so we can get back up again. Granted, anyone can carry one of those magical resurrecting feather thingies or a carafe of that healing potion stuff, but the feathers are expensive and those potions expire faster than unpasteurized milk. (Raise your hand if you’ve accumulated all those “heal 50 points of damage” potions only to realize that you’re now at level 47 with 8,000 hit points.)

Optional but desirable qualities: A bit of buffing on top of that healing is nice to have around. I’m sure the Tank likes all that rejuvenating healing mojo, but better still is the mage who can cast the Awesome Shield of Defensive Awesomeness to reduce the enemy’s +5 Greataxe of Bleeding Doom down to a -2 Pinprick of Minor Irritation. Extra credit if the White Mage can wield a mace like those D&D priests.

4. The Black Mage

Also known as: the Wizard, the Elementalist

The job: Blow. Things. Up. Really, that’s about it. Look, someone on this team needs to be able to cut down the bad guys, and it falls on the Black Mage. I’m not picky– lightning, fireballs, meteors, thermal detonators… whatever works. I want stuff so big that it kills the framerate and puts up Giant Numbers of Damage that make me go, “dang, that 15 second meteor attack animation did like FIFTY THOUSAND points of damage!”

Optional but desirable qualities: We know you’re a complete weakling physically, so please try to wait to unleash all that ethereal badness until the Tank has everyone occupied. Nothing is more annoying than having the whole party try to peel fifteen goblins off a Black Mage who forgot that he’s not a Tank. Also, if you can do a little passive extra damage through some poison or summoning a Stone Golem of Minor Tankness, I’m game.


The Melee Damage Dealer. There’s a lot to be said for that guy who can dual wield or who carries a sword the size of a light pole. Not only does this guy end up make a nice candidate for the role of the Silent Brooding Protagonist, he’s great at helping me bring down that Impossibly Hard Optional Boss in under three hours. (A man’s gotta sleep, after all.) If I’ve got a team of five, this guy is on my team.

The Grey Mage. Grey mages are the buffers and debuffers of the world, irritating the daylights out of the bad guys with their defense buffs, poisons, and other tactics that never look cool on the screen but still make you giggle every time you use them. Ideally you want white and black mages to be able to pull off some of these tricks, but if you have party size of six this is who you want rounding out the team.


The Mercenary. Mercenaries come in two types. One is the mysterious stranger who shows up and wows you with his overpowered stats right before he stabs you in the back because he’s really working for the Dark Lord of Destruction. The other is the greedy jerk who only comes along because you paid him and likes to toss insults while generally displaying bad AI and landing the occasional hit. Stay away from both.

The Jack-Of-All-Trades. “I’m the Swiss Army Knife of heroes! I can heal, wield a sword, cast spells, tell bad jokes, and play the violin!” Good for you. If I ever need a party of one I’ll ask for you.

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